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Monday, September 26, 2011

SEM/SEO: Five Tips for Better Results

Marketers know they need to help drive customers to their companies. Today SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is taking a prominent role in marketing plans.  Marketers are seeking to promote their companies’ website to increase visibility for search engine results/SEO (search engine optimization (SEO).  Marketers know that search engines reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, so specific SEM initiatives are being focused on to compliment the marketing mix. 
graphic from digitalart
SEO is a good tool for marketers in targeting, as it forces them to go through the exercise of mapping out their content and the hierarchy of categories, topics and ideas. It also forces them to pinpoint the focus of content they create for their website  (and helps them avoid creating useless content written to a general audience).

There are many SEO tips.  Here are five that I find to be most useful in getting more immediate results of your efforts:
  1. Use a unique and relevant page title and meta description on every page. The page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor. When search engines crawl a site, the page title is the first thing they see.  Generic titles like "home" or your company name are not strong. The meta description tag won’t help you rank, but it will often appear as the text snippet below your listing, so it should include the relevant keyword(s) and be written so as to encourage searchers to click on your listing (assists with click-through from search engine result pages (SERPs). These short paragraphs are a company’s opportunity to advertise content to searchers and let them know exactly what the given page has with regard to what they’re looking for).
  2. Optimize individual pages with keywords - helps with ranking. Marketers know that differentiation is key.  They also know that users will search for key words to locate what they need.  It is important to weave your keywords into the text on your website.  According to Dedric Polite at the HubSpot blog, to witness the power of an ideally optimized page, look at the Google search.  For example, conduct a Google search on the term "George Washington." Your first result, he notes, will belong to Wikipedia for two key reasons: perfect on-page SEO structure, and the strong off-page SEO of inbound links from respected sources.
  3. Include a site map page. Spiders can’t index pages that can’t be crawled. A site map will help spiders find all the important pages on your site, and help the spider understand your site’s hierarchy. If your site is large, make several site map pages. Keep each one to less than 100 links.
  4. Make SEO-friendly URLs. Use keywords in your URLs, such as Don’t overdo it, though. A file with more than 3 hyphens tends to look like spam and users may be hesitant to click on it.  The more descriptive, the better for spiders.
  5. Ensure Fresh Content on Your Site.  If your site content doesn’t change often, consider adding a blog, as spiders like fresh text. Blog at least once a week with relevant, fresh content to feed the spiders.
As part of an SEM strategy, firms are not only utilizing SEO, but also paid searches (Google Ad words, digital ads with pay per click, etc.).  No matter what your digital strategy, at a minimum, ensure you know what results you are looking for with your SEM/SEO strategy.  This will help ensure your time and dollars are contributing to your revenue goals or visibility objectives.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What was it You Wanted to Sell Me?

As I was rummaging through a file today, I came across one of my favorite marketing philosophies that I learned early in my career.  In a famous ad for McGraw-Hill Magazines (in 1950), a grumpy looking business man sits, hands folded in his lap, squinting at the reader with a defiant expression.  His message is memorable to marketers, as it is a cornerstone for success.  The ad states:

I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your company.
I don’t know your company’s product.
I don’t know what your company stands for.
I don’t know your company’s customers.
I don’t know your company’s record.
I don’t know your company’s reputation.
Now — what was it you wanted to sell me?

Moral: Sales start before your salesman calls - with business publication advertising. 

Translated today - if people do not know your company/product, the "build it and they will come" marketing approach will not generate, how are you using a multi-channel strategy to gain visibility/positioning with your clients/targets?

The Business Marketing Association created a great video that demonstrates how this ad is relevant in today's modern, tech savvy world.  It reinforces the importance of the basics of positioning. Take a few minutes to view - times may change, but the fundamentals of marketing remain.

Here's to branding and messaging!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

How True Professionals Develop Business in a B2B Environment

We’ve all heard the adage that it’s more cost-effective to win additional business from existing clients than it is to cultivate new ones. You already have the relationships and trust, so your marketing investment will be more efficient. While a growing business needs to constantly capture new customers (keep the pipeline full), you should not minimize the profit potential of  your existing customer base. Companies that fail to nurture and retain their customer base ultimately fail. You will also spend twice as much to get new clients as you will in maintaining your existing customer base.You will also be limited in your ability to attract new clients if you can't hold onto and satisfy your existing customers and clients. Think of it this way.  It takes about 20% of your time investment to up-sell or cross-sell for new business with existing clients.  For prospects, your investment could be up to 80%, as you have to build your trust. 

While working at Polsinelli Shughart colleague of mine, Stuart Smith, introduced me the book True Professionalism, written by David Maister, a former Harvard Business School professor. Maister offers these five tips for identifying and capturing the best opportunities in your existing client base.  These are some simple steps to enhancing the client relationship.

First:  Ask Your Clients How To Serve Them Better – What would they like you to do more of, less of? Listen to (and do) what they say.  Don’t accept “You’re OK.”  Keep asking until they tell you how to deserve a “You’re terrific!”

Second:  Demonstrate an Interest in Client Affairs – Meet with them regularly to discuss their business, attend their internal meetings, read their trade magazines and do them small favors. 

Third:  If Your Referrals Aren’t Providing Enough New-Client Business, Go Back to Steps 1 and 2 – If you’re not willing to be enthusiastic, interested, committed and dedicated, your marketing will fail.

Fourth: Design a Package of Activities To Demonstrate Your Value – Once you’ve decided whom you want to serve, design a package to demonstrate – not assert – that you have a special interest in them, that you offer something of value and that you are willing to work to deserve and earn their trust.

Fifth: Forget About Talking About Yourself and Your Firm – Successful marketing has less to do with you and your capabilities than with your abilities to find out what clients want.  The key is listening, not talking.

Maister says true professionals believe passionately in what they do, never compromise their standards and values, care about their clients and the people they work with.  This approach is not only ethical but also conducive to commercial success.

Growth of every organization depends on the strong client base which is usually earned at the expense of time, resources and hard work.  As you focus your marketing efforts with existing clients, you want to make sure your client is fully aware of ALL of the types of service your firm can provide, even if they do not have, or do not think they have a need for many of the practice areas at the current time. Take or make an opportunity to introduce your client to other partners of your firm which might present the client with a better overall “industry” solution.

Here's to building more business with existing clients.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Marketing Trend - What’s The Scoop with QR Codes

Photo from UCView
It all started in Japan, 1994.  Quick Response (QR) codes were created by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave Inc. for tracking vehicle parts. These two-dimensional bar codes are more useful than standard barcodes as they can store (and digitally present) much more data - thousands of alphanumeric charters of information, including url links, geo coordinates, and text. The code spread as more than just an inventory tool.  When you scan a QR code with your mobile devise, you can save information to that devise (like contact information) or access various portals on the web. Today, QR codes connect people with each other and content in a very efficient way.

Many marketers are including QR codes in their marketing mix.  They are increasing in importance as they provide a direct link between a consumer’s mobile phone and your company’s marketing message (e.g. your contact info, a sales message, a coupon offer, etc.) – more instant access to disseminate information that can lead to increased revenues. 
According to a study by comScore, a leader in measuring digital work, in June of this year, 14 million Americans scanned QR codes on their mobile phones, that’s 6.2 percent of the total mobile users.  For marketers, understanding which consumer segments scan QR codes, the source and location of these scans, and the resulting information delivered, is crucial in developing and deploying campaigns that successfully utilize QR codes to further brand engagement,” stated Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president.

Studies have shown a younger, affluent audience, but the age range is expanding.  Current trends of use are younger crowds (25-34), but those in the 35-44 age range are gaining momentum.  Trends also show males and those  who make more than $100k are more likely to scan a QR code.  As QR codes are still considered a new technology, there are a considerable number of consumers who are unaware of the QR code technology.  Some education may be needed with your target groups if you are going to use this as part of your marketing mix.
Samples of QR Code Use
Many top brands are using QR codes to reach their customers including, Ford, Audi, Pepsi, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Best Buy and Ralph Lauren. Starbucks has had success with the use of QR codes, enabling users to pay for their purchases via mobile - 3 million Starbucks customers have already tried itQR codes are being used in a variety of marketing mediums:
  • Advertisements/Billboards (linking to service/product information, special offers, call-to-actions)
  • Business Cards (linking to a company’s website, a biography, directions to business)
  • Brochures and other marketing material (linking back to more details on a product/service, special offers)
  • Sides of trucks and trailers (information on company or product)
  • Product tags and packaging (get installation instructions, special promotions, source for replacement parts and service)
  • Convention and event name tags (download contact information to your mobile devise)
  • Restaurant menus (to get more information on the restaurant or food preparation)
  • Event ticket stubs (valuable coupons and special offers from vendors)
  • Point-of-sale receipts (customer feedback)
  • Other creative uses: T-Shirts, on promotional items, in powerpoint presentations, city park benches, on real estate signs, on invoices
 QR Codes as Part of Your Marketing Mix
The future of QR codes is limitless.  Innovative brands can embed videos, websites and more to build out the contact a client has with their brand.  Approximately 22% of Fortune 50 companies are using a QR code to impact consumers. As you evaluate this new trend, determine how and if it fits into your overall strategy (marketing mix, channel marketing initiatives, and appropriate for the demographics of your target consumers). 
The next generation of barcodes will hold even more information – so much that an Internet connection may not even be necessary to access - as the content will be effectively embed in the code. 

For examples of companies using QR codes, visit

For insights into QR codes use in Europe, visit comScore Data Mine.

If you do not have a reader on your Smartphone, visit Jumpscan.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another Way to Think About Influencing Buyers

Do you know why your customers are buying from you? There are many factors that can affect this process as a person works through the purchase decision. The number of potential influences on consumer behavior is limitless. However, marketers are well served to understand the KEY influences impacting buying.  By doing so they may be in a position to tailor their marketing efforts to take advantage of these influences in a way that will satisfy the consumer and the marketer (The premise of marketing is identifying the people most likely to buy your produce/service, develop rapport or a close relationship with them and help them achieve their purchase goals).

As you think about these influencers, whether psychological, demographic, personal or social, also think about how impacting a customer’s attitudes and behaviors can assist with your marketing and business development efforts. It’s no secret that emotions are powerful factors that move people into action and cause them to make a purchase. To influence your buyers, you must understand and appeal to them emotionally.
  •      Impacting Attitudes – How do you get customers to prefer your product/services, believe in your cause, trust/respect you, drop an objective they have about your product/services or recommend/endorse you?  Impacting attitudes is about how you communicate and what you communicate (key messages).
  •      Impacting Behavior – How do you get customers to respond, attend an event, call you/accept a call, respond to a promotion/targeting campaign, actively consider your product/service or accept a meeting?  Impacting behaviors is the result of understanding your target.  If you can change a customer’s behavior, you are more apt to convert them to your product/service.
Taking a step back, the only way that understanding influencers matters is if you are properly identifying your targets. Without identifying your targets, you will not be able to accurately position yourself in the market and use influencers to drive marketing efforts. Targeting allows you to understand what venue you need to focus your marketing in that can generate leads that produce customers.  The use of targeting, customer influencers and a multi channel strategy is a successful formula for success in marketing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Value Messaging is Key for Differentiation

All firms are trying to do the same thing - sell products or services to customers to help them achieve success which increase the company's bottom line revenue stream.  Companies compete by communicating their unique attributes (or value proposition) so they can become a preferred resource for their clients/targets.

There is a problem, however.  Customers have a variety of companies they can purchase their products/services from, and many times customers can not differentiate between companies.  For those companies that can differentiate, they are magnets for increased traffic and customer conversion.

The Marketing Leadership Council of the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), say the biggest failure point in most company value propositions is "proximity."  Most companies, based on their proximity to their own company and products, overestimate the uniqueness and relevance of the benefits they promote.  Companies tout attributes such as customer service as a differentiator. But research has found that decision-makers see those touch points as marginal or poor drivers of preference. What really gets customers excited is hearing about clear, unique benefits that address their business needs.
How can you avoid parity in your messaging?

Photo from jscreationzs
A key is in how you think about differentiation - is it through value propositions or value creation. 
  • Value propositions are important to businesses.  These statements are essentially their benefits statement - how they are different that their competitors.  These statements are focused on the attributes of the product and/or company. 
  • Value creation is an approach to customers that focus first on the consumer, then how your capabilities/products/solutions help them meet their goals and needs.  It encompasses the value proposition in a way that allows companies to better communicate and link solutions to what a consumer needs.
Value creation is an approach to the market place that helps identify opportunities and align your solutions/ideas around them.  It is less about products and solutions, and more about customer centricity, customer experience, people, and relationships.  It allows you to step back to ensure you understand the profile of your target buyer, why they are in need of, and what capabilities you have to help meet those needs.

To build your value creation statement(s), here are a few areas to contemplate:
  1. Understand who your target is - What is the profile of the buyer you want and who you will communicate with?  You may have several target groups, so defining them will help you with your efforts. Without this first step, marketing initiatives have a lower chance for success.
  2. Understand what is important to your target groups:
    • Pain points/what keeps them up at night
    • Goals/objectives of a purchase
    • Best location for purchase/seasonality
    • Marketing mediums that they respond to
    • Price sensitivities
    • First mover advantage/technology
  3. Align your capabilities/solutions around what is important to target buyers (specific/niche targeting)
  4. Determine the messaging (this is where the value proposition comes in) - how you can assist in the targets buying process.  Ensure you have proof points to back up you messaging. Ensure your messaging is alignment with your brand positioning as well.
  5. Deliver your messages to your buyers - in the appropriate channel (multi-channel marketing)
  6. Track results, refine approach and follow-up
The value creation/selling approach to communications is an efficient way to help provide a proactive image of your product/company to clients and potential buyers.

To read more on the topic, visit Partners in Excellence to read an interesting article entitled "Your Value Proposition is no Longer Sufficient."